Fringe: The Recordist

Posted on October 15, 2012

We quite stupidly put off writing this review, forgetting that we were going to have to write reviews for both Revenge and  The Walking Dead come the work week. As a result, we’re going to wind up giving this episode short shrift. But we have a fairly good excuse: it bored the hell out of us and left us wondering what the point was after it was all over. In fact, this episode is a pretty good example of why we’ve put off reviewing Fringe on a regular basis, even though it’s one of our favorite shows: it doesn’t always lend itself well to episode-by-episode reviews.

Fringe has a tendency to get a little dense in its mythology and plot lines, and it’s not afraid to throw a bunch of stuff at the viewer in a quiet manner that belies the importance of what’s going on. In other words, we really don’t know what the point to all of this was, but there’s a good chance we’ll understand it better when the season is nearing its end.

But is it us or are the tree people kind of … goofy? It felt a little jarring. Sure, Fringe has always dealt with freaky science and monsters, but there was something a little off-tone about this group of bark-covered people living out in the woods of Pennsylvania and recording history for posterity. It’s like the show took a left turn somewhere and landed in Middle Earth, except everyone has really advanced computers with holographic displays. Last week, we clapped our hands with glee at the thought of an extended quest tale, in search of Walter’s lost BetaMax tapes. This week, we felt like we were stuck in a “Legend of Zelda” videogame where you must first encounter the Tree People and then convince them to give you the magic metal that will allow you to go down into the mine to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Sorry, it really lost us. About the only worthy scene in the entire episode was the one with Peter and Olivia talking about their feelings, but that’s probably because we love watching any scene with Peter and Olivia talking about their feelings. Plus, it helped to fill in a little bit of the backstory.

And maybe that’s why we found this episode so boring and inconsequential; because we as viewers really need some backstory right now. There are just way too many gaps and unanswered questions. And the quest tale is already losing steam, right as it gets out of the gate. This was, in many ways, a classic Fringe episode and a good example of why the show has always struggled to keep an audience. It never really knew what kind of show it wanted to be and spent far too many episodes in its run spinning its wheels and hoping the audience would stay for the ride. Let’s hope this is an outlier for the season, because the first two episodes were energetic and emotional. Let’s get back to that feeling. This felt like a season 2 episode – and that’s not a compliment.

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